Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Women without husbands

"For what experts say is probably the first time, more American women are living without a husband than with one, according to the NY Times analysis of census results." Mona Charen objects to some editorializing in the report, and notes the class implications of the marriage issue. This, while interesting, of course is not the end of the story. I just spoke to a young woman yesterday (a college grad, now working, circa 24 in age). She says she is worried because in two years of work she has not yet met a man that was sensible enough to marry; she assumed she would (because she did not meet one in college). Her practical remedy is this: she is attending two to three church services (different churches!) each week hoping to increase the odds of meeting someone more normal. The ones she has met through other venues have been a "little rough", as she put it. So far, she has had no luck. This is common, and in a couple of more years her worry will turn to panic. In over thirty years of observing young men and women on their dating habits--their ways of getting along with one another--things have only become more difficult, more complicated, more bizarre over the years. What will happen?

Discussions - 32 Comments

What a pitty. Considering divorce statistics and the legal situation, I would not blame men for this trend. The way things stand right now with regard to marriage, men are better off picking a random woman on the street and buy her a house and a car, and skip that troublesome cohabitation phase. I am not very optimistic about the church thing either. If a clueless 24 year old college graduate can come up with this idea, a lot of other people are thinking the very same thing. So who are you going to meet in church? Most likely a lot of people who are just like you! Statistics confirm this. Church-goers are very much the same as the general population. My recommendation: stay single and avoid contact with the opposite sex.

Perhaps she should go to China to find a husband. They will soon have a ridiculous surplus of men and this may be a good foreign policy strategy for the US. I’m only half joking.

So you met my sister?


Seriously




This is a major problem for women. They aren’t single by choice, although in someways they are.


My sister is desperately searching for a husband and a father (in that order), but most aren’t willing to bite and she is too selective. I am waiting for age (and her clock) to lower her standards.

Feminists may be thrilled about the non-married state of women, but most women aren’t.

As a man and an attorney I strongly discourage any guy I meet to resist marriage. The system is stacked against you. Marriage is good emotionally, but the legal contract is terrible. If pre-nups were actually acceptable or required men would feel less abused, but "if you loved me you wouldn’t ask".


Divorce used to heavily favour men, now it heavily and unjustly favours women. Really if her attorney is not accusing you of alcohol abuse, drug abuse, physical abuse or her and the kids, and sexual abuse of the kids, he is pretty much committing malpractice. The court clerks really should just simplify life and make a checkbox form for those accusations. Who is going to walk into that situation, especially when they grew-up in broken homes and know how the system works?


In case you wonder where this will lead see the black community and its life of "baby’s mamas" and fatherlessness. Wow the Baby Boomers really created that utopia they talked about during the 70s didn’t they?


Men need marriage like a fish needs a bicycle.

"You reap what you sow" the old saying goes. If you look at television shows and ads, men are predominately pictured as fools or macho sadists. I was at a community meeting this week and the question came up about a book drive that was going on in the community. Someone asked who was sponsoring it and what was the money going to be used for. The answer was "the University Women’s Club" and the money was to help females with scholarships for college. The last time I checked, nationwide there are many more women than men going to college (and at our local University). I think we are still operating under some old criteria that no longer apply. College educated women are going to find an increasing short supply of college educated men to marry (if that is what they are looking for). Kind of like what is going on in China except just the opposite. I think it is called the "rule of unintended consequences"

Win the culture war.

That will turn things around.

Peter wrote: "In over thirty years of observing young men and women on their dating habits--their ways of getting along with one another--things have only become more difficult, more complicated, more bizarre over the years. What will happen?

It will simply get worse and worse. There is absolutely no cultural catalyst on the horizon that’ll change it.

Men really aren’t that complicated. As has been written about elsewhere, we like to provide for and protect those in our care; we like to believe our efforts are for a greater purpose. Unfortunately, that requires two key things to work:

  1. Men who understand that being provider and protector is a sacrificial role, not a selfish one.
  2. Women who believe they can trust placing themselves in the vulnerable position of being provided for and protected by a man.

We’re in a cycle where the two are working at cross purposes. Women don’t want to or don’t trust being reliant on untrustworthy men (often, rightly so). It’s then clear to men the women don’t want to be provided for and protected. Men, then having no grand purpose in life, seek to fill the void and often do that in selfish pursuits -- using women rather than serving women. Evidence of this is all around us. Women, sadly, enable this -- young women often prefer the "bad boy" types to the quiet, more giving types. Unfortunately, what makes defines a "bad boy" is really just a deep selfish streak. Or when women do come across a caring man, they abuse the giving nature of the man. Marriage is built on the foundation of mutual trust; sadly, both sides of this equation seems broken.

No government program is going to change this; no program of education or awareness is going to change this. The only thing that’s going to change this is for men to once again come back under the control of a sense of their purpose being valuable and noble. The Bible has an answer for this, but it won’t work unless people really believe in the words and He who is behind the words.

Maybe I’m being overly pessimistic. But I don’t think so. It’ll only get worse.

I second the "reap what you sow" comment above. You can’t treat men like ATM machines with arms and legs forever and expect them not to eventually wise up. Why would any sane man with anything going on even THINK about getting married? Why not just had a loaded pistol to a total stranger and tell them to point it at your head and pull the trigger whenever they feel like it?

Husbands for sale

A store that sells new husbands has just opened in New York City, where a woman may go to choose a husband. Among the instructions at the entrance is a description of how the store operates: "You may visit this store ONLY ONCE! There are six floors and the value of the products increases as the shopper ascends the flights. The shopper may choose any item from a particular floor, or may choose to go up to the next floor, but you cannot go back down except to exit the building!"

So, a woman goes to the store to find a husband. On the first floor the sign reads: "These men Have Jobs". The second floor sign reads: "These men Have Jobs and Love Kids". The third floor sign reads: "These men Have Jobs, Love Kids, and are Extremely Good Looking."

"Wow," she thinks, but feels compelled to keep going.

At the fourth floor the sign reads: "These men Have Jobs, Love Kids, are Drop-dead Good Looking and Help With Housework."

"Oh, mercy me!" she exclaims, "I can hardly stand it!"

Still, she goes to the fifth floor and the sign reads: "These men Have Jobs, Love Kids, are Drop-dead Gorgeous, Help with Housework, and Have a Strong Romantic Streak." She is so tempted to stay, but she goes to the sixth floor and the sign reads: "You are visitor 31,456,012 to this floor. There are no men on this floor. This floor exists solely as proof that women are impossible to please. Thank you for shopping at the Husband Store."

To avoid gender bias charges, the store’s owner opens a New Wives store just across the street. It too has six floors. The first floor has wives that love sex. The second floor has wives that love sex and have money. The third through sixth floors have never been visited.

You can’t treat men like ATM machines with arms and legs forever and expect them not to eventually wise up.


I believe the actual term is "a sperm donor with a wallet".

Back to the original post and Peter’s final question, then reading forward, I guess what we will get is the end of Western Civilization. Marriage is too much trouble for men - why bother? George Gilder’s book, Men and Marriage said that marriage was very good for men. But that was written some years back. Maybe things have changed.

Didn’t we just see statistics within the past few months establishing that married men on average are happier, and live longer, than their single counterparts?

Even though I think Don in AZ’s assessment is too simple and incomplete, I don’t see how it answers the question even if it is true. Men should quit whining and go find a good woman. Maybe by first treating women like an individual human beings before categorizing them and their "role" (prudent men should know when and where to differentiate b/w the macro and the micro), men will be able to compromise and work in a happy relationship. This thread reads as if a line has been drawn in the sand, but I don’t know too many people who live strictly by some ideological framework.


Maybe some consideration to the nature and substance of a relationship (instead of "looking" for a wife; "looking" for a husband) will help change the problem.

When I hear people are not marrying my economic mind thinks of marriage substitutes, such as living together. Marriage is simplying too costly due to legal rules for people to risk it, while living together without marriage provides pretty much the same benefits. I know some will say "lack of stability," and while it is true live-ins break up frequently, with easy divorce laws the risk is pretty much the same for marrieds and with over 50% or so of marrieds getting divorced, the risk seems about the same.

People are economic creatures (esp. men). You take % probability of something happening [in this case seperation of couple] * cost of it happening [marriage is 1/2 of assets, live in is $0 of assets, though that is changing in CA and other States] and people will choose the low cost alternative if the benefits are the same.

I think if we thought of marriage as a partnership and structured divorce laws accordingly it would rectify the situation. When a partnership dissolves each partner gets his capital account. The capital account is what he/she contributed to the partnership - what he/she withdrew.

What this would mean for divorce is that each spouse would get the worth of their assets prior to the marriage, and then all income earned during the marriage. If one spouse stayed at home they would get the fair market value of maid services and child care services. I think this would be a pretty good system, though it would take the romance out of marriage I guess, but there seems to be little left to take out.

Maybe there is a bright side to this. Perhaps men are learning to listen to their fathers’ advice instead of their own genitalia.

Is it such a bad thing in a climate where divorce is so high, for men to show greater selectivity and discrimination? Put another way, one way to achieve a lower divorce rate is to start with a lower marriage rate -- especially if people finally marry with more realistic financial expectations and more experience regarding the modal behaviors of the opposite sex.

More good news: If you are worried about the fate of marriage itself, it is entirely possible that gays will revitalize the institution. And once something becomes accepted in the gay community, it is not long before straights will become intrigued......

The problem is that they are NOT choosing. They are sampling. Everything between men and women is now on a trial basis, even marriage. We already have a lower marriage rate - how has that improved the divorce situation? Men and women who co-habitate before marriage are more likely to later divorce, and more couples ARE cohabiting before marriage. Gay marriage follows this course and worse - as one such couple I know puts it, they like to hunt together. They don’t mean quail.

First, the "research" is showing that both men and women profit from marriage in terms of physical and mental health. We are meant to be together, that’s clear.

Second, I don’t think it has so much to do with money, or courts, or any of those material things. Both men and women have inflated notions of "appropriate" mates at this point, and so they bring unreasonable expectations to their relationships. Moreover, millions of Americans are simply spoiled brats...it’s their way or the highway. Let’s just hope that it doesn’t go as far as it has in Japan.

".it’s their way or the highway."

This from the guy who wants liberals and brown people to board the train?

Also, I just asked my wife of 23 years, and she said that after 23 years of marriage, her expectations are not too high.

It’d be interesting to compare the health and well-being of men who never married with those who are divorced. It could well be that, while marriage makes us happy, divorce makes us so miserable that the fear of it could keep some of us from marrying in the first place.

Hey, Fung, always on the attack...just remember, you’re the guy who always starts it. And, as is true about 70% of the time, your commentary is emotive rather than substantive.

John, the group of never-married men in this country is pretty tiny...5% (I’m guessing...about 95% of all people marry at some point during their lifetimes). At any rate, the study you suggest would be difficult...how many of the never-married have, shall we say, disadvantages in the marriage market (i.e., various handicaps, non-existent social skills, etc.). The "happiness" effect you would be looking for would probably be overwhelmed by these other factors...hard to tease out, in short.

Dain,

Sheesh! Didn’t you catch the whimsical, self-deprecating humor? My wife’s expectations are not too high?

Happy New Year, dude!

John, here is one. There are (some) more, but I am on my way out....
"The present study shows that long-term, low-quality marriages have significant negative effects on overall well-being. We utilize a nationally representative longitudinal study with a multi-item marital quality scale that allows us to track unhappy marriages over a 12-year period and to assess marital happiness along many dimensions. Remaining unhappily married is associated with significantly lower levels of overall happiness, life satisfaction, self-esteem and overall health along with elevated levels of psychological distress compared to remaining otherwise continuously married. There is also some evidence that staying unhappily married is more detrimental than divorcing, as people in low-quality marriages are less happy than individuals who divorce and remarry. They also have lower levels of life satisfaction, self-esteem and overall health than individuals who divorce and remain unmarried. Unhappily married people may have greater odds of improving their well-being by dissolving their low-quality unions as there is no evidence that they are better off in any aspect of overall well-being than those who divorce." (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)(from the journal abstract)

Daniel Hawkins, Penn State

Here is the reference info on the above article:

Social Forces, Vol 84(1), Sep 2005. pp. 451-471

I suppose that is why the women mentioned in the article who were divorced were reluctant to consider remarriage. The point with divorced women is that they no longer HAVE to remarry to survive, financially. To John’s point in #18 - it isn’t that people fear divorce the first time around, but to those who have been through it, it was so painful the first time, they are reluctant to try marriage again for fear of a second divorce.


Fung, I appreciated your self-deprecating humor. I’ve been married for 33 years, and you can tell your wife, I get it.


Which is to say, I do not find the part about people divorcing late in life, and the women living alone, really upsetting. That’s merely sad. The women mentioned are beyond child-bearing and the only children mentioned are grown-up ones. Historically, normal mortality rates made marriage less of a long-term proposition. What was being married for a lifetime when a wife might likely die in childbirth, or a husband of something as simple as an infected tooth? People did not necessarily have to rub together for so long as today.


The part of the article that really bothered me was this:


The proportion of married people, especially among younger age groups, has been declining for decades. Between 1950 and 2000, the share of women 15-to-24 who were married plummeted to 16 percent, from 42 percent. Among 25-to-34-year-olds, the proportion dropped to 58 percent, from 82 percent. Single motherhood is a plague. That point is not mentioned in this particular article, at all. The lack of family structure hurts us. Children without fathers are more likely to grow up in poverty. And the lack of money is really the least of it. My kids grow up, go into the world, and most of their contemporaries have no idea of what a childhood with a stable family might be like. They have no fathers, or have multiple fathers, as in they are in blended families where you live with one set of parents for now, and another set later. Or one parent is just gone, forever. There is no settledness, no stability. The prevalence of divorce in the previous generation has made marriage seem untenable to the subsequent ones. It isn’t a fear of divorce, it is a "why bother with marriage, if divorce is the likely end" just as the guys writing above indicated.


The idea of building something together in a marriage seems to be gone, or rather, going. I know many couples who still have that vision. But it does not seem to be the general thing. I have read that it is worse in Europe.


We DO need marriage. We need intact families that at least get children to adulthood. We need these both as people and as a society. Our culture is hurting without it.

And, the NYT strikes again with an apparent half-truth. Clickhere.

Thank you, Michael D, and I even quoted that part and never thought it through. What is the quote? "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." It IS good that 15-17 year olds are not married, isn’t it? That Medved article is a great comfort, and I hope his statistics are all true. Though 23% of children with single mothers does seem like a A LOT of kids without fathers in the home. And what about the other 9% of children not in 2-parent homes nor with single moms? Are they with dad, or grandparents? That’s a goodly number of kids, too.

Well, I tried to tell you...marriage is in, but it’s serial marriage. Another thing that is important is that the first age of marriage is increasing, but that it is a return to an earlier pattern. In NW Europe, people typically married in the mid-20s (a pattern that goes back as far as we have records). Nuthin’ new about it...the frontier and the Baby Boom led to earlier marriage, but waiting until you can afford children is an old Euro (and American) pattern. Believe me...at the end of day, 90%+ of all Americans will have married at least once during their lifetimes.

If you wait till you can "afford" to have children, you may never have them. People who do that, who wait till they’re in their late thirties or early forties, sometimes find they are too late, as the woman is no longer all that fertile, especially after years on the pill. If they manage conception, they can only have one or two children. That’s barely replacement.

It is the living together before marriage that is new, not the older age for marriage. As my niece said, "It feels silly to give a wedding shower for a couple marrying after living together for ten years. What do they really need?" But that is the way it goes these days.


What is serial marriage but polygamy by another name? It was the reluctance of women in that which the article was about. Men seem to like serial marriage just fine.

Nope, Kate, I disagree with you. I think men are just as unhappy with all this instability as women, and women are just as likely as men to go off the rail in search of "fulfillment." Indeed, I suspect that women are much more likely to ask for a divorce than men (just guessing on that...perhaps someone would like to look it up).

As for "affording children," I meant you could earn a living on your own. That was the old pattern (it usually meant land, which required older ages at first marriage). Today, I guess you can wait until you have the Victorian and two BMWs, but that is hedonism, not wisdom.

dain, I should have specified. I was referring to the original (and now discredited) NYT article which stated that men were more likely to remarry after divorce than women. I can imagine some other logical reasons for this, but that they DO want to remarry makes your case, that they do not like instability.


On women being more likely to ask for divorce, I suspect you are right. Thinking about the "whys" of it, "fulfillment" isn’t the usual reason I hear.

I used to believe that it was generally the men that ruined relationships, but as I’ve grown older and seen more and more (complex) examples of breakups, I’ve concluded that people in general SUCK. If it’s not an alcoholic man abusing his wife, it’s a wife who losses respect for her henpecked husband. Or one or the other "grows" and decides the grass is greener on the other side. I’ve concluded that there actually are millions of people mature enough and smart enough to stay married, but there are just as many who can’t manage it. Our expectations are simply too high for these relationships, I suspect...and only smarts and maturity allow people to ratchet down their expectations rather than cause social chaos around them. Divorce can be beneficial, but it shouldn’t be so damned common.

I suppose that relates to Fung’s comment #21, above, that suggests that ratcheting down expectations can be a mistake. We all understand the occasional necessity of divorce, in the kind of abuse instance you cite. As to the man/woman, whose fault was it issue; I only know of one divorce where the woman really had no cause other than "unhappiness." However, I admit that sometimes I am more committed to the principle of death-do-us-part marriage than I may be to the man. Actually, that has gotten us through many a rough patch. It can be hard, very hard, to "manage" to stay married. I am less dogmatic than I used to be on the topic, for a number of reasons, including those given for the divorces of my Christian, home-birthing, home-schooling friends, most of whom I NEVER expected to divorce.


You mention the social chaos of divorce, and that has been one of our "ties that bind." Is it just selfishness that people do not consider what divorce does to their family and to everyone around them? Does society now expect us to be concerned about ourselves in that issue of happiness - that we have an obligation to be happy - in ways that were not to be expected before? We seem to expect to be analgesicized (is that a word?) from physical pain, and has that slid into an expectation for the emotional realm, as well?


But people SUCK? I like far too many of them to be able to agree with you, there. People are imperfect beings. Didn’t Julie just lecture us on that, recently? We really need to forgive human imperfectability. One of the wonderful bits about Christianity is the stress on forgiveness. (Not that Christians always remember.) Forgiving makes life much less stressful, especially married life. Forgiveness is a gift for the forgiver far more than for the forgiven.


Look at me! Sermonizing on a Sunday. Ha.

Sure, I over-spoke. Human beings have many wonderful qualities as well (the black gentleman who lovingly took care of that aging elephant on a recent Nature retrospective comes to mind). Still, the flaws are pretty deep, and although (like you) I’m a bit more tolerant of human nature these days, it’s just very hard sometimes. For instance, my wife just told me about a man who walked out on his wife and his 5 month old baby...a baby they had PLANNED and agreed upon. Another woman...I guess he wasn’t getting enough of his wife’s attention anymore. Ugh.

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